Bot D (Pink & Green)
Bot D (Pink & Green), 2016
Unique Letterpress Pressure
17.5 x 12 inches
Ruane Center for the Humanities, Lower Level
About the Work
Until relatively recently, it was neither legal nor socially acceptable to be out as an LGBTQ+ person. As such, queer art over the centuries has been shaped by, on the one hand, the need to conceal references to the queer body, identity, and experience. On the other, it has been concerned with a desire for better visibility: the cultural imperative to create representations of queer identity because few exist. Artist Elijah Burgher embraces this duality to create non-figurative portraits, like Bot D (Pink & Green), inspired by art and cultural history and his own identity as a gay man.
For Bot D (Pink & Green) Burgher was inspired by the coded language and symbolism of queer artists and authors like Marsden Hartley, Jasper Johns, and Oscar Wilde. Sourcing symbols and imagery from their early works, he creates a composition that he thinks of as both an abstract self-portrait—because it references the creators whose artworks have helped him to understand himself—and a sigil, which is an emblem in which mystical or spiritual power is imbued. For Burgher, queer identity and presentation align with abstraction and sigils because they too subvert established forms of communication. Indeed, when existing languages forbid a way of being, then new ones must be created.